Sharpening Rotary Razor Blades - Safe and Simple Method

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About: Hi! I'm Cassey. I'm a full time student, with an undergraduate degree in biology and am working toward a dual PhD in "Genetics" and "Biochemistry and Molecular Biology." It's a lot of &qu...

Most people in our modern civilizations use razors, whether on faces, legs, unmentionable areas, etc. That means most people also have experience with DULL razors! With a $5 pack of disposable razors, that's not such a big deal since you just throw them away when they stop giving you a clean cut. But what about when your $150 electric razor stops giving you a clean cut, and you find that new (decent quality) blades are $50??? Dull razors are DANGEROUS, as they're more likely to accidentally cut you while you're shaving. But paying $50 for razor blades every month/few months is dangerous too, for our bank accounts... So we try to figure out how to sharpen our dull razor blades instead of purchasing new ones!

There are lots of YouTube videos showing how to “sharpen” electric razor blades using Jeweler’s Rouge, or Polishing Paste, and a lot of them involve blood… As the blades spin into the poor person trying to sharpen the blades like tiny ninja stars... NOT a safe way to sharpen the razor blades! Additionally, who keeps Jeweler’s Rouge or Polishing Paste laying around??? (If you do, please disregard that statement, I take it back!!) My hubby is a private engineering contractor/troubleshooter and we decided to break it down and take a look at it, to "accurately define the problem"... Here's what we found.

There’s good news for us cheapskates! Razor blades don’t actually get dull. The microscopic edges of the blades oxidize over time, which interferes with the blade’s cutting abilities. When "sharpening" the rotary blades, you just need to knock off the oxidation, on both the blades and the screens of the electric razor. Toothpaste contains a little grit to help clean teeth. When we apply toothpaste to the razor instead of our teeth, that grit hones the razor’s blades and removes the microscopic “metal lips” that form at the edges of the holes in the screens from the blades rubbing over them. This method is simple, quick, involves all “on hand materials,” and leaves your Electric Rotary Razor Blades BETTER than brand new!

*Please Note: This tutorial is for the Cordless “Wet/Dry” type of electric razor.*

Step 1: Materials

For this project, you will need:

  • An Electric Razor (preferably one you want to start cutting better!)
  • Toothpaste (any brand/type)
  • Small brush (the same on you normally use to clean your razor, or an old toothbrush)
  • Hot water (from your sink faucet)
  • 5 minutes (okay, MAYBE 10 minutes, if you're being responsible and cautious)

That's all!

The electric razor used in this tutorial is an 8 year old Phillips Electric Razor, but the concept will work on any Cordless Wet/Dry Electric Razor. Please note, this will ONLY work with the Cordless Wet/Dry Razor, as it involves getting the razor wet. Using a corded Electric Razor is a fire/electrocution hazard! Don't become the next "process of evolution meme!"

Step 2: Disassemble Razor and Brush Clean

Disassemble your electric razor as you usually would to clean it. You need to be able to access the blades and the screens, as shown in the pictures. Once disassembled, CAREFULLY brush the blades while running them under hot water, then rinse them with hot water. Brush and rinse the screens under hot water also. Then, reassemble the razor.

The close up pictures of the blades and screen are from after brushing. Notice the blemishes, the metal/debris clinging to the blades, and the bumps in the screen? Those bumps are causing the spinning razor blades to bump away from the screen, and not cut your hair!

If your razor does not easily disassemble, that's okay! Clean it like you usually would (brush it out under water, etc.), and continue to the next step.

Step 3: Applying Toothpaste

Squeeze a bit of toothpaste into the palm of your hand. Not too much, you don't want to bog down the razor, but enough to get the toothpaste into the screen and blades. Turn the razor on and slowly push the razor against the toothpaste in your hand, turning the razor to make sure the toothpaste is getting in every hole. When you feel the head of the razor heating up slightly against your palm and bogging down a little bit, pull it away for a few seconds, then repeat the process several times.

It's important to go very slowly here, as you don't want to bog down and burn up your razor! Make sure the blades all spin in the toothpaste and it's evenly distributed and runs through the blades and screens well.

Step 4: Cleaning It Up

Clean the toothpaste off your razor by again running it under hot water. If you need to disassemble it again to fully remove the toothpaste, do so.

Admire how much better your blades and screen look! All those metal tags that were clogging your blades are gone.

Let the razor dry, and enjoy the clean shave!

I hope this tutorial saves you lots of time and money, and keeps you "blood free" while honing (remember, honing, NOTsharpening) your Electric Razor Rotary Blades!

Step 5: Some Extra

  • Notice that each of the blades are actually a "stack" of two blades... The first blade in the stack grabs the hair and "lifts it" while cutting it, and the second blade in the stack cut the hair AGAIN before it can be pulled back out of the screen
  • The blades are "self sharpening/honing" to some extent, by constantly running over the insides of the screen. But, each blade eventually ends up with a tiny "wire spring" (see picture above; it’s the edge of an unhoned blade viewed under 400x magnification) of metal covering the sharp edge of the blade, preventing it from cutting as well. This method both “sharpens” AND “hones” the blades by removing those wire springs!
  • Using toothpaste instead of Jeweler's Rouge or polishing compounds allows each blade in each "stack" to be honed to cut again, instead of just targeting the first blade
  • Jeweler's Rogue/polishing compounds don't clean the space between the two blades; instead, they almost "cement" the blades together.
    • On our razor with 9 blade stacks on each of the three razor heads, "cementing" the blade stacks together means we'd have 27 cutting blades, instead of the *54* we SHOULD have.
    • Using toothpaste to clean between the two blades in each stack DOUBLES the number of blades actively cutting hair, which doubles the cutting efficiency!
  • Using the "mirror technique" can be dangerous, as it can cause the blades to be unevenly sharpened, which may cause them to catch and nick the screen. If the screen gets nicked, it's more likely to allow your skin to slip into it and allow the blades to cut you.
    • Also, this technique is just way quicker and easier than the mirror technique. ;)
    • Believe me yet?
    • No?
    • Try it out for yourself, then leave a comment letting us know how it worked for you!
    • Then share the tutorial so your friends can benefit from it too!

<3 - Cassey and Company

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    28 Discussions

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    hanshadow

    7 days ago on Step 5

    Incredible!! I have a 2+ yr. old Norelco and was very close to losing $50 on new blades. A few minutes and no cost and now I have a razor that shaves like it just came out of the box.
    Great Tip!!!

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    CasseyShepherdhanshadow

    Reply 6 days ago

    Very happy to help you save money!!! :) Thanks for the great feedback.

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    OldGrouch

    16 days ago on Step 3

    Both less costly and less likely to overstress the shaver motor by dragging it down is cooktop cleaner for smooth top (glass top) cooktops. A small amount in the palm of your hand (just like the toothpaste) and a few drops of water will do the job jus as well, if not better. It also rinses away easier after sharpening. I did two of my old Norelcos this way and they are back to shaving like new.

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    CasseyShepherdOldGrouch

    Reply 15 days ago

    Yikes, you must use some some expensive toothpaste! ;) Toothpaste is nice because it's readily available, even if you don't have cooktop cleaner, and already safe for your skin. Looking at those razor blades under high magnification, I don't really want to put anything on them that I wouldn't want embedded in my face/skin.

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    kmpres

    20 days ago

    There seems to be some confusion on how best to maintain the blades and screens in rotary shavers. The following has worked well for me for the five rotary shavers I have owned, all lasting more than eight years each. Perhaps it could work well for you, too.

    1. Only use the shaver dry, never in the shower, and never use water to wash out the whiskers. The reason is that the whiskers tend to cake up in the nooks and crannies making a kind of cement that is hard to remove later, and that can damage the moving parts. You also don't want to drop the thing in the shower as that will break it.

    2. Remove the shaver from the charger after each full charge and leave it off until the razor reaches its minimum charge level. Only then should you give it a new charge. This deep cycles the batteries and gives you the most life out of them which is generally about 200-300 charges depending on chemistry. Obviously, the more time that elapses between charges the longer the batteries, and your razor will last.

    3. After each shave open and lightly tap the head assembly over the sink to knock out the loose whiskers. Lightly brush the parts but it is not necessary to remove them until the time comes to recharge the batteries.

    4. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP: When disassembling the shaver head, always keep track of which blade came out of which screen and return them in that order. Don't mix them up! The reason is because the blades and screens wear into each other and develop a track that will not fit the other blades/screens if you mix them up. The result will be a poorly working shaver until the blades have had time to wear into the screens again and more of the metal will have worn away in this process. If you keep doing this you'll be replacing heads and screens more often than necessary. Using this method I have never had to replace a blade or screen ever in the 45+ years I've been using rotary shavers.

    5. Thoroughly clean the blades when the battery charge goes down to its minimum level. The batteries have nothing to do with the cleaning of the blades except that the time interval seems to work best for both if these steps are done simultaneously. Gently hold the blades in your fingers and brush them with the brush that came with the kit or use a clean epoxy brush. They're cheap and the bristles can be cut short to make them stiffer if necessary. Brush the screens and holder assembly as well. You can use hot water to rinse out the head after you've finished brushing the parts but avoid getting water in the head cavity. Before inserting the blades, put a small drop of mineral oil (baby oil if you prefer) in each screen to lubricate the blades. After closing the head assembly, run the shaver for a few seconds to mate the blades to the motor shafts and spread the oil around, then wipe off the excess oil on the outside of the screens with a tissue.

    Using the above five steps your shaver should not require any parts to keep it running throughout its entire life. I have also had three "vibrators" and one "lawn mower" type and none have lasted as long as my rotaries. The batteries will lose about half of their charge capacity after 8 years at which point I'll either replace them or buy a new razor. Replacing the batteries can be difficult and requires some special tools so I don't recommend this procedure. However, if you cycle the batteries properly and keep the blades and screens cleaned and oiled as described above your shaver should give you many years of trouble-free service.

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    Trey Shannonkmpres

    Reply 20 days ago

    Older "Ni-Cad" batteries in Razors used to develop a "Memory" if recharged before they were fully dead... That's no Longer the case. Modern rechargeable batteries, and modern Charging Circuits, eliminate the "Memory Effect"... Battery Technology has FINALLY moved forward ;)

    Much of the "Facial Irritation" from shaving comes from "Unhoned Metal Slivers" on the cutting edge of Blades, hitting the skin on your face... Keep blades honed! If you look at the skin on your chin under HIGH magnification, you can see.. well, spooky stuff, embedded in the skin.

    Hope this helps.

    BTW, Saw your Write-Up on your battery desulfinator! VERY Nice! We
    use one very Similar to it that I built a few years back on our "Solar-Charged Electric Club Car".. Large Forklift Batteries get expensive FAST if you don't maintain them
    properly. People RUIN batteries by not maintaining them properly. Our "Trace C-40 Charge Controllers" are "Supposed" to maintain the batteries in the Club Car and our Home Battery Bank, But adding a separate Desulfinator to them helped dramatically!

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    kmpresTrey Shannon

    Reply 19 days ago

    Yes, I didn't mention nicads because they haven't been used in many years. The six year old Remington shaver I took apart a few weeks ago had corroded 1600 mahr NiMH cells that had dropped to about half their normal capacity so I replaced them with newer but less capacity 1000 mahr NiMH cells. Same shaves per charge resulted so I consider it a good repair for an old shaver.

    While I don't doubt that unhoned metal slivers do exist, I have never seen them in my shavers possibly because I never mix up the blades and screens. What causes skin irritation for me is the chrome plating used in making the screens. Chrome is a known skin irritant but it is cheap to manufacture. Titanium is most compatible with skin but it is seldom seen in shavers because it is expensive to manufacture. The only vibrator shaver I liked out of the three that I've owned had a titanium foil but the company went out of business some 20 years ago. I now slap on a pre-shave lotion prior to each shave and follow the shave with a quick wipe with a wet washcloth and that has pretty well eliminated the skin irritation I used to get from chrome shaver heads.

    I'm glad you liked my desulfator circuit. It turned out to be a surprisingly popular instructable, especially in third world countries I was gratified to learn. Your Solar Charged Electric Club Car sounds very interesting. You should write an instructable for it, too, if you haven't already.

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    Trey Shannonkmpres

    Reply 19 days ago

    :) I do the same thing with older equipment that have (DEAD) "Battery Packs".. They almost always simply contain "AA" or "C" Cell-Sized Ni-Cads in them.. The Rechargeable NiMh Batteries take pretty well to being connected together in the same configurations as the old Ni-Cads from the "Dead" Battery Packs, and often you can get away with using NiMh "AAA" Batteries in place of the old "AA" Ni-Cad Batteries, or "AA" NiMh Batteries in place of the old "C" sized Ni-Cad Batteries. As you no doubt know, you just have to "Get on the ends of the batteries FAST" with a good Soldering Iron (I have an older "PACE Soldering Station" that I picked up at a "NASA Surplus Equipment Sale", cheap.. If the price of *anything* with a "Pace" label on it can be considered "Cheap" ;), without too much heat, and then "GET OFF THEM and get them COOL (Without risking a "Cold Solder") ... Same for the older DEAD Ni-Cad Battery Packs that go into my DeWalt Cordless Tools (I recently Swapped to their LiOn Batteries, which are AWESOME, But Expensive).. Using the NiMh Batteries gives you good run-time, and the Battery Packs are often noticeably Lighter.

    If you look at Cassey's "Microscope Pics" of the cutting edges of a Rotary Razor Blade, those tiny metal wires are ALWAYS present after a month or so of use, or after "Sharpening" ANY Knife or Razor without Honing it... You'll often see younger guys with blackheads on their cheeks and chins.. Under High Magnification, you can SEE tiny metal slivers (Among Other Things) from Safety Razors, or Rotary Razors, embedded in the skin... I use "High-Mag/Hi-Rez" Imagers a lot in my work, so I gross myself out once in a while looking CLOSELY at things like that..

    "Chromium Steel" causes *me* to develop a rash also if I don't use a light Shaving Lotion as a little "Buffer" between my face and Chromium Screens. So I DEFINITELY feel your pain, My Brother! I've been considering taking a High Quality 3-D Scan of a Razor Screen, and using the 3-D CNC Machine to cut a few from Titanium, but I never seem to get around to it (Is there EVER enough time to "get around to" everything we "Would *LIKE* To Do"? ;)

    I run several "PROVE IT TO ME" Websites around the web on my various Servers... Feel free to hit my personal site, linked to my profile, if you're interested in Solar Power, True Sin-Wave Inverters, Virtual Assistants, Basic Home Automation, etc.. I NEED to update that site desperately (I think the last time it was actually updated was, like, 2016, IIRC), but there's that "Time Problem" Again ;)

    I guess you've built a few of those "Joule Thief" Circuits? They do the job when you don't have much "Power" to work with... I use them OFTEN when in a few of those "Third World Countries".
    BEST!

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    kmpresTrey Shannon

    Reply 19 days ago

    You know well how to replace battery packs for devices whose packs were never meant to be replaced. I hate filling up land-fills with perfectly usable appliances so I do this kind of thing all the time. The basic secret is to remove all oxidation first, apply lots of liquid flux, use a good quality clean iron and get on and off the cells as quickly as possible. My other instructable on How to Rebuild a BionX E-Bike Battery Pack describes this method in detail for 18650 Li-Ion cells.

    You are correct in saying that NiMH and nicad cells are, to a degree, interchangeable, but do pay attention to the charge and discharge currents as the cells have different internal resistances. For example, the same trickle chargers will work on AA sized cells (50 ma charge current) but larger NiMH cells should be charged with a peak detection circuit to keep from overcharging them. Fortunately, there aren't too many nicad cells left in the world so this is kind of a moot point these days. Li-Ion cells, however, use an entirely different technology and must be charged with chargers designed specifically for them or literally a fire could result. For a while markets were flooded with poorly designed chargers from China and lots of fires resulted, but changes to import laws seem to have reduced those occurrences to a minimum recently.

    I just bought a new shaver to replace my old Remington, a Chinese brand I never heard of before called a "Phisco", so I'll be looking out for the metal slivers you mentioned. I suspect, though, that frequent cleaning of the blades will simply brush them away with the whiskers. After they seat themselves into their screens and "self-hone" the blades should remain sharp and free of metal debris for the life of the shaver as long as I remember to not mix them up. Time will tell.

    If you ever do make some titanium screens then do let me know. Speaking of replacing irreplaceable parts, titanium literally feels like skin to the touch which is why it is used to replace body parts. It will take some serious CNC machining, though, so you're a better man than me for making the attempt. I look forward to seeing the results!

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    JamesA41

    19 days ago

    Great idea that I am going to try to see the effect next time I shave if I can remember (need to work on that calendar remote sensing interface mirror).

    I usually dry tap or dry brush or blow out to clean... doing that over the trash. The tapping I do in the sink sometimes and wipe the sink with toilet paper before rinsing clean.

    Reminds me a gas turbine blades that seat themselves after burning in. Have to try to remember to place the same blades in the same positions also.

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    DavidE307

    20 days ago

    WARNING! You should keep each blade+screen pair together as they are ground together when new. Don't mix them up!
    Oh - see 4. below!

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    jbtech2

    20 days ago on Step 4

    This dulling problem was well determined! I realized that oxidation was really the problem many yrs ago with my safety razor blades(atra) and have since kept the blade head submerged in rubbing alcohol 23-3/4 hrs/7 days. I average about 40 face shaves per blade head subsequently. A real money saver. Perhaps the same could be done with electric razors, the cutter portions anyway? Nice post! (and a double phd??? working hard, eh!). btw, my insight came from noticing even stainless tableware will develop slight 'rust' if two damp pieces are allowed to touch in the drawer.

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    elimsprint

    20 days ago

    Just remember to keep the blades matched with their screens when you take them apart to clean them as each blade wears it's screen to match itself and they are not all identical and they don't wear the same.

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    tomwall1969

    20 days ago

    Every 3 or 4 shaves I take the head completely apart and use an old toothbrush to clean the blades and screens and accomplish the same thing with no abrasives. I have been using the same head for 7 years and it works fine.

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    patriceT1

    21 days ago

    Just tried it this morning.
    I've been astonished to see that it works like magic
    Thanks a lot
    signed Beardman oh well ex-Beardman
    :-)

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    CasseyShepherdpatriceT1

    Reply 21 days ago

    Of course it worked! We're backed by BLADE HONING SCIENCE! ;)
    I'm glad to hear you safely got rid of your beard!

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    gm280

    22 days ago

    While I totally understand your idea and it sounds plausible, that fact is the "Screen" is the major issue with electric razors. The blades grind the screens down as well as your whiskers and dull the blades all at the same time. You can re-hone the blades, but there is not much you can do for eroded screens, other then replace them. If you look very closely at the screens, you will see how they are ground up from the spinning blades. The blades actually rides on the surface of the screens to protect your face from the blades. And once that screen gets ground up, all bets are off for a smooth, irritation-free shave. At least that's what I found out. You could easily take the blades and hone them on a wet stone themselves to resharpen them. But the screen is still a problem. JMHO

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    Trey Shannongm280

    Reply 22 days ago

    CasseyShepherd covers "the screen issue" in the write-up, with close-up pictures, above.

    I've tried using a whetstone, and it just makes the problem worse. The grit and oil on the surface of a whetstone gets trapped between the stacked razor blades on each "Blade Stalk" and bends the blades further apart from each other, causing the blade-edges to not hit the hair a second time before the hair snaps back out of the screens. It's also nearly impossible to wash the oily grit from a whetstone out from between the blade stacks, so the problem of "Bending the blades further apart" gets worse each time to try to "sharpen" the blades and MORE grit is trapped between the stacked blades. Sharpening the blades alone doesn't do anything to address "The Screen Issue".

    Additionally, "Sharpening" the blades CAUSES a microscopic little sliver of metal to form OVER the edges of the blades, which doesn't allow the FINE edge of the blade to cut properly.. Blades must be "Honed" to remove this little sliver of microscopic metal that covers the edge of the blades after "Sharpening". If you've seen videos of people running a straight-razor back and forth over a leather belt, Those people are honing the straight razor (Called "Stropping") to remove metal slivers from the edge of the razor blade, and straighten the slightly bent (From each use) Microscopic EDGE of the blade. The edge of a freshly Sharpened (But Un-Honed) blade, seen under a microscope, is kinda scary looking ;)

    Hope this helps!